Persuasion not Domination
I haven't read his book yet, but I did listen to an extensive interview with Fareed Zakaria where he discussed "The Post American World". My main exposure to Fareed has been on The Daily Show, where he is a frequent guest. I always liked his viewpoint.
Fareed's new book is about how America finds its place in a new world where there are many powers, not one superpower. With the ascendancy of China and India, the resurgance of Western Europe, and the US bogged down in Iraq and with some internal issues, the US has lost a lot of influence over the past few years. I don't think we can get this back by flexing our muscles. Instead, we must change our approach and be the 'Chairman of the Board', as Fareed describes.
One of the best lines from the interview (and probably a quote from the book) is that the US must lead by persuasion, not domination. We have lost our power of persuasion and have tried to get our way by being the bully. We'd be much better off, and much safer, with a persuasive and inclusive approach. We need to be engaged with the world and building coalitions, not demanding that we get our way.
I think that this is one of the most important meta-trends in our country. One of my main criteria in deciding who I am going to vote for in the Presidential election is "which candidate is best able to change the perception of the US in the world and lead by persuasion?" Hint: Talking about being in Iraq for 100 years or obliterating Iran probably disqualifies you.
Another good line from Fareed: When other countries are looking out for their self-interest first, we call it nationalism. When we look out for our own self-interest first, we call it patriotism. I think that what we need to do is to persuade people that all of our interests are actually aligned.
This theme particularly resonated with me because our new investment firm, Sempre Management, will also require us to use the power of persuasion with our active, hands-on investor approach. We like to think that we are pretty good at persuasion.